Science Now + Beyond

8 ways social media is changing our brains

Y’all, social media isn’t as great as we made it out to be. Study after study after study is revealing the consequences of our obsession with social media! But what harm has that done to our minds and why should we care? Here are some reasons why we need to think twice about what we are doing.

1. We’ve accidentally rerouted our ability to do more than one thing

Social media has rerouted our ability to focus on more then one stimuli in real time.


As stated by Stanford professors, “we are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli” when we have been exposed to a certain amount of social media. Basically we can no longer multitask because we are easily distracted, something you wouldn’t have expected when you go from one device to another to complete various tasks. How does that work? Turns out that heavy electronic use can make it harder for you to commit information to memory, unlike if you stuck with a certain amount of time and were able to soak things in before moving on.

2. It’s similar to a drug addiction

Social media triggers a part in your brain that releases Dopamine, a feel good chemical that is initially released to trigger euphoria. While social media addiction is obviously different from drugs or an alcohol addiction, a 2012 study found that our brain treats the two quite similarly. This should make you aware of the fact that soon may have to treat Internet addiction as a new and serious mental health issue if the rates of addictions keep up.

3. It’s rewiring our nervous system

Ever felt your phone buzz out of the middle of nowhere, checked it, and realized there had actually been no buzz at all? This is because of Phantom Vibration Syndrome. 89 percent of test subjects have admitted to feeling a phantom buzz once every two to three weeks. Weird! Turns out our phones have rewired our nervous systems in astonishing ways. Researchers believe it’s caused by chronic phone exposure causing our nerves to interpret the simplest itch as an incoming text message.

4. Sleep is but a memory…

Nowadays, we typically stay awake to catch up on all the social media we had left to rest during our day. The fluctuating hours of sleep result in grogginess, cramping, and worsening eyesight. As said by Russell Rosenburg, “Unfortunately, cell phones and computers, which make our lives more productive and enjoyable, may be abused to the point that they contribute to getting less sleep at night leaving millions of Americans functioning poorly the next day.” That can’t be healthy. As experts continue to warn about the effects of smartphone use before bedtime, a new study shows how social media use in particular can have an effect on sleep and cause sleep problems.

5. Our memory capacity increases

While most would believe that you don’t use your brain as much online in comparison to real life, this study proved the opposite. In the study they asked one participant to refresh their friends’ Facebook status updates. The more this was done, the working memory levels grew: more status updates meant more information and pictures to take in and retain to memory. Our brains have to work harder to keep up with the slew of information set before our retinas and, like a muscle, the more the brain is exercised, the stronger it can grow.

6. It makes us lose our ability to think for ourselves

According to research that emerged from HP Labs Friday, the bandwagon effect was very much alive and soaring online. When people were presented with two choices for sofas, one that was picked two hundred times and another picked just twice, people flocked towards the one that was picked two hundred times. Maybe the two hundred sofa was nicer? Not so. They were the one and the same.

7. Social media can deteriorate your self esteem

“When we look to social media, we end up comparing ourselves to what we see which can lower our self-esteem. On social media, everyone’s life looks perfect but you’re only seeing a snapshot of reality. We can be whoever we want to be in social media and if we take what we see literally then it’s possible that we can feel we are falling short in life,” said psychotherapist Sherrie Campbell.  Something to remember when online is not to compare your life to others. Where a peers’ Instagram is beautiful and photogenic, remember that yours is too.

8. Social media rewards us for our selfish behavior

We are essentially making narcissism the default physiological behavior. Eighty percent of the time we are active on social media we are talking about ourselves. Since social media use increases the amount of dopamine in our bodies, we begin to feel euphoric when talking about ourselves!

Now that we are through with that, a cat video to erase all traces that you ever read this.


By Silla Alawa

She spends her time writing angsty poetry and struggling with main-stream ignorance. Her pet peeves include a) Kindles and b) slow wifi. Don't ask her what she does in her free time.